“The church put down roots along the Rhine, and sowed seeds in the world” – this verse from a hymn of the Chinese Rhenish Church (CRC) in Hong Kong represents the evolution of Rhenish missionary activity. For the third time in six years, the Rhenish family within the United Evangelical Mission (UEM) community is coming together. From 16 to 20 November, they exchanged memories of their common past and ideas on new forms of cooperation. The churches in South Africa and Hong Kong emerged through the work of the UEM’s predecessor, the Rhenish Missionary Society, founded in 1828.
This time, the CRC invited representatives from the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland (EKiR) and the Rhenish Church in South Africa (RCSA) to Hong Kong. Church Elder KK Chan welcomed the delegates with an invitation to make themselves at home. “I am glad to welcome you all here as part of the Rhenish family. Our meeting has three objectives: first, to deepen our relationships; second, to think about partnership projects for the future; and third, to be aware that we are part of a global movement.”
Leon Chau, General Secretary of the CRC, presented the church’s diverse work in Hong Kong. Attendees also visited some projects during the five-day meeting. Discussions focused on current challenges such as maintaining social and welfare services, dealing with juvenile delinquency, and observing the anniversary of the Reformation.
Three UEM partnership representatives from Wuppertal attended the Rhenish churches’ meeting, as did Julia Besten: the director of the UEM Archives and Museum Foundation is one of the founders of the group. “While preparing for this meeting in Hong Kong,” said Besten, “I read over my speech from 2009, which I gave to mark the 180-year anniversary of the arrival of the first Rhenish missionaries in Cape Town: ‘I am convinced that this new contact to the RCSA will not be so quick to break.’ And look, here we are today, connected across three continents.”
The encounter was particularly intense for Luske Aysen, from Cape Town: she has been a South-South volunteer with the UEM in Hong Kong for the last six months, and the meeting marked the end of her stay. “Hong Kong is simply mad! I am so, so grateful for our church partnership, which made my experience here possible. I would like to continue to do my part for this Rhenish association in the future.”
Brenda Sass, chair of the women’s division of the RCSA, reported on her church’s Esther Project. “Women from the congregation reach out to young people and encourage them to actively engage in the work of their church. This work also offers points of connection for our partnership and for cooperation with the UEM.”
Many talks were also on the agenda, as were visits by congregations and church diaconal institutions to sites such as a senior centre and a home for the elderly. The CRC funds both facilities. Participants discussed how differently their respective societies deal with pensioners, and where the commonalities were.
In the Lutheran theological seminar, Kin Pan Wu spoke about the Rhenish heart of his church; the pastor is currently completing a doctorate at the university in Bonn. He lectured on how the first missionaries worked in China and how they brought the gospel to the Chinese culture in the process. He also translated the unofficial anthem of the CRC, “Rhenish Heart”, into German, to celebrate the meeting of the three churches.
High Consistory Member Barbara Rudolph tweeted about the meeting:
Julia Besten & Uli Baege
Photos: Uli Baege / UEM